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The UK government is planning to offer homeowners in England and Wales a £5,000 ($6,894) grant to swap out their old gas boilers for low-carbon heat pumps.
The move is part of more than £3.9bn of new funding to decarbonise heat in buildings, one of the largest sources of UK carbon emissions. It currently accounts for 21% of the total.
It is hoped that the scheme will incentivise people to install the new heating systems, which do not emit carbon when used, over the next decade to reduce the country’s dependency on fossil fuels.
The UK has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Heat pumps extract warmth from the air, the ground, or water, and are powered by electricity.
New grants will be available through a new £450m three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme from April next year.
These grants mean people choosing to install a heat pump will pay a similar amount as if they were installing a traditional gas boiler. UK manufacturers are already working towards making electric heat pumps more attractive to consumers.
The launch of the scheme will support up to 240,000 jobs across the UK by 2035, the government said, with social housing and public buildings also being more energy efficient.
The government is aiming for all new heating systems installed in UK homes by this time frame to be using either low-carbon technologies, or supporting new technologies like hydrogen-ready boilers.
According to the Climate Change Committee, nearly 11 million homes need to move from gas to renewable heat sources by 2035. The government has set a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps each year by 2028, and while the number installed is increasing, just 60,000 were installed last year in UK homes.
It confirmed that households will not be forced to remove their existing fossil fuel boilers.
Watch: Households will be able to apply for £5,000 grant to replace gas boilers
“As we clean up the way we heat our homes over the next decade, we are backing our brilliant innovators to make clean technology like heat pumps as cheap to buy and run as gas boilers — supporting thousands of green jobs,” UK prime minister Boris Johnson said.
“Our new grants will help homeowners make the switch sooner, without costing them extra, so that going green is the better choice when their boiler needs an upgrade.”
It comes as natural gas prices have soared to record highs in recent weeks due to low gas reserves, strong commodity and carbon prices, heightened global demand, and low wind output.
Business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Recent volatile global gas prices have highlighted the need to double down on our efforts to reduce Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and move away from gas boilers over the coming decade to protect consumers in the long term.”
Matthew Fell, CBI chief policy director, said: "There’s no doubt that the scale of the challenge is considerable. “Government must now support this valuable work with a clear delivery plan for consumers, businesses and local authorities."
However, the strategy has been criticised as not being enough.
"Investment will drive down the cost of heat pumps, and technical innovation plus skills training is a part of this, but so is scale. These grants will only incentivise the best-off households," Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden, said: "We have recently witnessed the impact of skills shortages on the haulage industry and the resulting fuel crisis. The installer skills gap is also a key blockage that we were expecting the Heat and Buildings Strategy to clear.
"There is a massive gap between the UK’s current capacity and the sheer volume of work needed to retrofit homes, install heat pumps and achieve zero carbon by 2050."
Meanwhile, shadow business and energy secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “As millions of families face an energy and cost of living crisis, this is a meagre, unambitious and wholly inadequate response. People can’t warm their homes with yet more of Boris Johnson’s hot air, but that is all that is on offer.”
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